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Young Adult’s Literature @ the MLA

Seattle, WA—One of the alarming trends exposed at this year’s Modern Language Association (MLA) meeting is the degree to which cutting is featured prominently in young adult’s literature. Robert Bittner, of the University of British Columbia, points out that in at least four popular novels, cutting figures prominently:

According to Bittner, “the early days of cutting novels” includes a title from 1991 called Crosses [5]  by Shelley Stoehr and an earlier title by Anderson—Speak [6] (1999).  Additionally, the Riders of the Apocalypse [7] series by Joyce Kessler, features such characters as Lisa, “an anorexic who becomes the Office of Famine,” and “Missy, a cutter given the Office of War,” according to Balaka Basu of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Cutting means exactly what it sounds like. Children literally cut themselves on purpose.

Cutting, or self-mutilation, is not the only destructive behavior portrayed in currently available books. For example, Crash into Me features a character named Jin-Ae, “a lesbian who does not want to come out of the closet.”

One theme of these novels that is not so novel is the helplessness of parents and other adults, although the behaviors of the juveniles involved gives their passive influence more poignancy. “Both of Kessler’s heroines eventually seek adult help,” Basu notes. “That section gets almost no space.”

Similarly, Bittner notes that in the novels which he described, “Adults are portrayed as helpless.”  In films, grown-ups fare even more miserably. “In teen horror films, adults are not quite as sympathetically portrayed as in young adult novels,” Christopher William McGee of Longwood University, who has made an extensive study of such cinematic offerings, observed.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia [8].

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org [9]